Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Salto take 2

Not much knitting going on around her, Poppy, smallest bear turns 6 on Saturday, well Friday but the party is Saturday. So there is a giant monkey to paint for the 'feed the monkey a banana' variation on pin the tail on the Donkey game, Bananas to buy, cakes to make, loot bags to fill - all while fending of an exited nearly 6 year old who almost can't wait. We have the number of days remaining counted out loudly several times over breakfast alone. Amongst all this frenzy I have looked in my WIP basket, to find, one mitten, two nearly done socks and a part cardigan. For now I'm being strict with myself, I need to finish one of these before I start something new, and Salto socks it is. Last - while responding to a comment left on one of my U-tube videos I found three new to me purl variations - Thumb purling, so I'll share those at the end.

Remember that I had to frog salto sock one to score enough yarn for sock two, well things got a little more complicated. To make sure the two socks end up exactly the same I have frogged probably past where I needed to and am now knitting both socks at once on two circs from a center pull ball. Don't ask, please do not ask, for it may all come out in the wash, or it may all be revealed latter, or my true hope - that in the grand scheme of knit socks, it is not important why this pair of Salto need be knit this way this time. For the past few days the magic sort of went, as I frogged, de-kinked the yarn, wound the surplus onto a ball, sorted the socks onto 2 circs, and got the yarn ends and frogged rows to be the same places on both socks. Now I'm knitting the cables again the process is much more enjoyable, fun even, I'm smiling not frowning while working these.

And my background knitting is still the alpaca plain knit flat stocking stitch torso that will one day be my Tangled Yoke Cardigan. I'm now at nearly 22 cm, of I think - 40 cm to the under arm point. At this rate, I'll have Tangled Alpaca for Spring in New Zealand, or maybe next winter?

And Purling by thumb, an accidental find on U-tube, that I thought I would share. The first Purl by thumb is pretty cool - but I'm not about to start including my thumb in the purl mix yet (gotta add that yet). Fellow knit nighter, P at Take Back the Knit purls with her thumb, which is why these caught my interest. Now if I tried, I think I would be all thumbs, at least at the beginning - pun intended :-).

and the second is named the Quick method. I do apologise a little for all this gratuitous linking to u-tube, but this thumb purling is pretty cool ....who knew there were so many variations? The video shows both knit and purl, so keep watching for the purling thumb.

and a third which also uses the thumb, again keep watching past the demo of knitting to see the thumb purl, and I don't even want to think about the faint commentary in the background, cow what?

take care, - if you are passing by Saturday and want to join in the banana monkey themed party, we will be in the house with yellow balloons on the gate. Balloons tied to the gate, the international symbol for Party inside.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Dunedin Institution - the 24hr book sale

If you live in Dunedin, you should have at some time in your life attended the annual Regent Theater 24hr book sale. This is where locals and local libraries cull their book collections and donate what they consider surplus to the Regent theater, and the Regent theater then holds a mammoth annual book sale. Doors open at 12noon on a Friday, and close at 12noon the following day. The book sale was last Friday - I went twice - once Friday night and again on Saturday morning. Bear went once. There is a reason to the madness of going back - they keep bringing out boxes of books and magazines as the books on the tables sell and more space become available. Local musicians (good and not so) vie for microphone time. Its all good very good fun. Today the post starts with the books, then onto the spinning and knitting, and finally wood turning. I've finished plying my first real live sock yarn, I've been knitting pink booties, which look much better blocked, and I've got more baby knitting (not all mine). Finally what my dads been doing in the way that dads do sometimes, helping daughters with their hobbies - so a bit of a show and tell and boast about his new found abilities.

So - what did I buy at the book sale, well before I tell, I first need to explain all books are $1 unless marked otherwise, and in the last 2 hours all books are half price. All my books were unmarked so $1 (or less). My real knitting find was The Harmony Guide to Knitting Stitches Volume Two. I also bought You Knit Unique by Lee Anderson, a gorgeous vintage 1980's book on how to design and knit garments. While its not my style - I opened it at a page showing work by Margaret Stove - any book that references well known knitters goes home with me. Pawing through the craft section - specifically for 'ethnic' knitting books, I also found Make Your Own Bilum by Silvia Baker, detailing a spinning and knotting technique for Bilum bags of Papua New Ginea. It was the front page that sold me, "Make Your Own Bilum. The Craft of Knotless netting of stone age origins and including thigh spinning in the primitive manner". How could a spinner resist this 1985 book in good condition? I mean - what if I'm caught without a wheel or a spindle and yet have fiber? Bear found me the New Anchor Book of Counted Thread Embroidery Stitches - which will join the other embroidery books on my shelf. I also found a second copy, very worn, of Mary Thomas's Book of Knitting Patterns. This 1948 edition of a classic book was so worn the salesperson said it should never have gone out for sale, and that given its condition she wouldn't charge. I plan to pass this on to a new friend at knit night, who asked if there were books of knitting stitches available. Finally I also scored a copy The Ashford Book of Weaving by Anne Field. The weaving book has a sticker on the back with the original NZ price of $39.95 - and honestly looks like it was never used. I've already done a deal with another knit-nighter I met at the sale to swop this for the copies of Piece work she scored, K is much more into weaving than I.

I finally got to the end of my plying, I've been spinning this fiber since I blended it on my refurbished carder on the 23rd of March this year. Its now May, and all spun and plied. In total I've got 486m of a 4 ply cabled yarn, 16 wpi. This is my personal challenge this year, to spin sock yarn and knit socks, I feel half way there.

A new baby girl arrived to a RofF (relative of a friend), early by over a month, which is pretty scary for any new parents and their kin. Given this friend is in the knitting group, I had to cast on some teeny tiny baby booties.

This is a heavily modified pattern derived originally from a bootie in a Debbie Bliss baby book. I have knitted these so often know the pattern and knit them on autopilot, and I long ago converted the pattern to be knit in the round. These are a nice plain bootie, contrasting with the fancier ones many knitters opt for, and have a ribbed cuff hidden inside - helping them to stay on. Of course they look like a scrumpled mess when you graft the toe to the sole and stand back to admire your work. But a little blocking, and they smarten up nicely.

And more baby stuff, for a different baby this time, a boy, a baby blanket is being communally knit, and I volunteered to stitch the squares together. These are some of the squares I've been given so far. I'm always amazed at the variety when individuals all undertake the same task.

And lastly, Dads, very useful things Dads are - even if they have their own lives. Mine loves Case tractors and rotary hoes of the vintage variety. Beyond his 1963 Matches 250 scrambler motorbike, he busies himself in his retirement with collecting and restoring Bedford trucks, Case tractors, and rotary hoes, all pre-1945. Why? We don't know, we have stopped asking. But I did buy him A Pictorial History of Trucks, published in 1978 at the sale, on the off chance he would like it, he did. Tractor and truck restoration seems to involves traipsing the rural environs and farm sales searching for old vehicles to transport home and take apart and add to those already in his backyard. Into all of this comes me, his firstborn requesting he turn extra bobbins for Wing spinning wheels for a friend and I on his metal working lathe. He is a mechanic not a wood turner, but he gave it a go, and now he has turned a prototype, or perhaps this is a swatch. It works - a little smaller than the original as the wood he had to hand was not quite big enough, and a little thick around the middle, and not as smooth as he wanted - some story about the lathe motor needing replacement. Thats been done now. More importantly the bobbin works, here is the old varnished bobbin on left, new unfinished bobbin on right. My friend and I now need to find suitable wood and wait for Dad the busy retired mechanic to make us more.....

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

on and on and on and on ...

Plying, thats whats being going on, and on, and on. I finally finished spinning the singles for my first sock yarn, so I've been plying the two last singles together, I started Sunday night, and plied for 2 hours last night and another hour early this morning before the school run, and another hour early this evening while dinner cooked. I'm still not to the end of the bobbins. So it goes like this, pull a length of singles off the bobbins, treadle 10 times, feed the length in and pull of another length, repeat, again, and again and again. I think I can automatically count to 10 while having a conversation, or watching tv - multi-tasking of a kind I never knew I needed to do.

This all makes for rather boring blogging, but the plying is necessary if I expect to knit with the yarn, and is pleasant even if taking longer than I want. So there is more 'plying my spinning trade' planned for tonight - and then I can ply the 2 bobbins of two-ply yarns together to get my cabled four ply, that will be Friday and or Saturday before its done. Then, and only then can I return to my knitting projects, I'm being strict with myself here, I want to spin something else, I'm ready to spin something else, I've bought some yummy fibers and I want to play with them, on that wheel.

but I have been doing some knitting, - look baby squares, two 8" squares ready to seam into a baby blanket. These are both knit from a skein of my hand-spun, a lovely blue grey possum merino blend. The fiber was a gift from Jenni, a learn to spin gift, and now its going into a baby blanket gift. I like things that go full circle. The top square has a garter stitch center only because I was to lazy to look up a center blanket technique and couldn't make one work. I cast on 6 stitches, worked 5 rows garter stitch slipping the first stitch each time, then picked up 4 stitches down each side (I moved the first and 2nd stitch to the sides). Then I knit in the round, increasing every corner, every row, using a yarn over. First time I knit it 7.5 " square and then blocked out to 10" square, opps! I knew it would stretch but not that much. Being me, I frogged the outer rows while it was still damp and cast off to get a significantly smaller finished square. The second square is in a moss stitch, one of my favorites.

Knit night tomorrow night - we have a name, did I tell you that already? Take back the knit, kind of a tonge in check take on the take back the night rallies of the 1990's and a slight poke in the direction of knit in public events. We knit in public every week. So my plans for tomorrow night are for more stocking stitch knitting, and then the weekend I might even cast on and work some colour work on the second twined mitten. I am hoping to have the sock yarn plied by then - we will see if I do.
take care - Stella

Saturday, May 17, 2008

8 Finished Merino Tops!

ok - so yes, the tops are merino, and yes they are knit, but I cheated and sewed these from fabric, not knit them myself. This week was a week of parcels, first Bobbins from Auckland, and then a surprise from California, and fabric from Global Fabrics. I have been knitting since the last post, two baby blanket squares (not photographed - I forgot, so next time), and the Alpaca Tangled yoke on teeny tiny needles.

Because I've been knitting, my tangled yoke cardigan grows. Whenever I knit it in public, at the pool, knit night, the guild meeting I attract questions about the needles size. OK the needles are 2.5mm, and yes it is an adult cardigan, and yes it will take time - but I like fine knitting. I've begun the stocking stitch torso - so expect lots of small increments in growth on it from now on. I do.

Finally - my extra 6 bobbins arrived for my Pipy spinning wheel, all nice and gleaming. Aren't these beautiful? When my Pipy came with only 3 bobbins, as they did when new I ordered an additional 6 to be made by Mr Poore. He made the Pipy and as he was still making bobbins at aged 90. I took the opportunity to lay in a seriously indulgent additional set of six. Six - should keep me happy for a long time, added to the original 3 that gives me 9. Nothing quite like being short a bobbin or two. I did have to wait, until Mr Poore sourced some more brass but the wait was worth it.

And the next parcel this week was 2 boxes of a scifi dvd series, and a skein of sock yarn from Suzanne (Magpie of Ravelry). That lady knows my favorite things, socks and sci-fi, what could be better? Suzanne suggested the pink for Poppy socks, and I think yes, perhaps Froot Loops from the latest knitty. Poppy has noticed and commented that I get far fancier socks than she does, but in my defense, the last 2 pairs have been for other people not me, and the next ones will be for her.

Today I spent much of the time stitching, 3 machines set out on the dining table and a lunch of soup in a cup so I could keep working without having to clear the table. Winter is approaching and so an extra layer is required, now I detest Polypro thermals, they pill, they go smelly and they require very careful laundering to remain nice and soft and new looking. But ... I can't afford to dress the cubs in commercial merino thermal underwear, so I decided to make them home made (or made with love) merino thermals. I bought 1.5m of blue and 1.5m of tangarine merino from Global fabrics, for a total of $NZ65. That is tangarine not Peach - really it didn't photograph well at all. And 3 machines you ask, well a straight sewer, a 4 thread over-locker, and a cover-seamer - I used to take my sewing seriously and still have all the equipment in the hall cupboards.

I copied a singlet of Poppy's and a fitted sleeved top onto heavy card, grade the pattern up to fit Toby, and cut out 2 long sleeved top and 2 sleeveless tops for each cub then spent the day sewing. It has been ages since I had a sewing day - and I enjoyed the fast productive results. All up using thread I already had, and making my own patterns, and not charging for my time, the tops cost $NZ8.12 each. Following costing maths to an even more illogical conclusion (after all I wouldn't buy 8 tops all at once), Polypro tops sell for $24.95 each, so I in theory I saved $134.60. Now do you think I can justify spending that that on yarn. :-) The blue is for the boy, and the tangarine for the girl - and the blue tops do not look girly in real life. Yes there are 7 tops in the photo, and Toby is wearing the 8th.

I even added a thumb hole to add a slight 'cool factor to Toby's long sleeved tops, in an attempt to negate any 'my mother made these' thoughts that might occur. He did think that was pretty cool - so I might have succeeded.

I'm near the end of my sock spinning and plan to do that most of this week, just to get it out of the way and free up the wheel for something new - I will photograph the baby blanket squares I've been knitting(from my homespun!) for the next post, I might even cast on for mitten number 2!
take care - Stella

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

half way there ...

mmmm yes, a mitten, half a pair, so half way there. Today there was near darkness as I went to work at 8:15 am, and darkness as I bussed home at 5:30 pm, so very limited opportunities for quality photos. I forget to pack the knitting to photograph in daylight at work. I've worked a little more on my alpaca cardigan, and spun a little more. I realise today I have both process and product knitting, usually my work is far more on the process, I know I can knit some ugly things just because they involve an interesting or challenging technique. At least I know that about my knitting.

So .... my mitten is done, finished early last night and worn and admired. I loooove this twined fabric, firm, thick, squishy in a firm way, elastic by again firm. I'm not so sure I love the actual knitting - but like any new technique it takes time to become proficient and for it to be easy.

I always post my videos on u-tube, and some one responded to the twined knitting video with the simple but puzzled query - 'why do you do twined knitting'. How on earth do you answer that? Its not as simple as 'because I can', but perhaps more along the lines of 'because I read about it and it sounded interesting'. Ok, we all know that puts me firmly in the world of the knitting geek. I freely admit to being a technique focussed knitter, and when shown a new technique - well I just want to give it a try, and possibly add it to my technique tool box.

But back to talking about the mitten, I decreased the end of the mitten and grafted the top, picked up the waiting thumb stitches and knit the thumb. I used a decrease for the thumb that matched that of the top of the mitten, decreased at the edges and grafted closed. Odd, as usually patterns I've used have a more round thumb decrease, but this works nicely.

So this is what the mitten looks like, all it needs now is a mate. We have had one slight frost so far, but no real sign of winter. The mornings are chilly, a message that winter is coming, and so I will knit another mitten to complete the pair, just so I can wear them.

and a closer view of the twined knitted fabric, see how the stitches lift a little on the left side? I think that is the result of the twisting pulling the right side of the stitch down snug. I can see how those who take such things seriously could feel stranding is not the same as twining.

and finally - some progress on my tangled yoke cardigan, slow progress as I'm knitting in finner yarn that that specified. Look - nearly 16 cm, of the 19 cm required! Nearly there, and then ..... stocking stitch ... flat! This is a real product knit, where it is the cardigan I want and the process is to be endured.

Our local knitters night has found itself a name - Take back the knit. Do you like it? Thats tomorrow night, and I've got the local guild monthly meeting Saturday, so time to knit a few more cm's on my rib. I do need to cast on for the second mitten - but that requires focused time, and is not a social activity.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Tvåändsstickning - holding those twisty yarns

Today - a quick short post, a video showing the more efficient hold for twined knitting. I developed this method based on a few photos in an article in an Threads book, Knitting around the world. The article is 'Swedish two-stranded knitting' by Linda D Y Sokalski. I inter-loaned a copy through my local library - then found several of my knitting group had copies.

and thanks for nice messages last post, its been a sad few days, and I expect there will be more sadness to come. My colleague is some one I first co-taught papers with 8 years ago, and who I watched as she completed her masters. She is some one with whom I have had many many process vs product discussions centered on student work. She has an arts background and I a science one, together we found that the same things were important in our students work.

Take care - I'm still twining away on my mittens, and I promise progress images next time.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Nope - dark chocolate can't fix this,

Some small things, and an incredibly sad thing. I'm back at work, after having a few days at home to rest and get better. No point coughing all over the students and fellow staff is there? And - yes I'm sad, some one is moving into a hospice, and its sad, no other word for it, to describe knowing a life ends soon. Sad. No its not family, but a colleague who I admire and who has such a healthy respectful human attitude to students and peers that I'll miss her already. Please excuse me while I feel a little dark and blue about the whole thing - Friday there is a small function (at her request) to say goodbye - and just between you me and a big box of tissues --- frankly, I'm gonna be a mess. There are a few things in this world I've found to my dismay that even the darkest of dark chocolate can't fix, and this my friends, appears to be one of them.

So I'll avoid the issue for now by talking about the knitting, my Salto sock project continues, I've worked the heel on sock two, and un-worked, or frogged the toe on sock one. Sock one is now just sitting and waiting for me to knit sock two to the same length, and then I'll finish the two together. Remember sock 1 ended up being a little to long and needed trimming? And there might be an issue of not enough yarn - but we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

And my twined mitt? Well I've knit up to the thumb and even managed to add a line of crook stitches to delineate the thumb/palm line. I was so proud of myself, early in the line if you look really close you can see where I messed up, before I learned to read the twine chain and predict if the row should be k1 p1 k1 or p1 k1 p1.

And the increases? Well twined increases are a doddle, is that a word unique to New Zealand or is it in common use world wide. Here is means easy-as, or not-difficult. So to increase in twined knitting, one knits into the stitch first with one strand, and then twists the other strand over and knits into the same stitch - an easy increase, 2 stitches where once there were one. I chose to work this mitten with all the increases on one side of the thumb gusset, why? Because I'd never seen that done before and it was one of the 4 thumb shaping options in the book. I like the result, especially the way the stitches angle away from the body of the mitten so sharply.

And for all of you who think my knitting is well nigh perfect, well its not and here is some of the proof, I have not mastered twining over the gap of the dpn needles. And some where in the muddle I think I goofed the aligning of the knits and purls, something is not right here, and its not the begining of the round so I can't blame that. Wanna know the worst part - its the center back of the mitten, and I could have shifted the gusset around to hide this on the palm - but I didn't think of that till afterwards. Still I'm thinking of this as my 'learning' mitten.

And I'll leave you with my progress so far. I'm trying something new, I've got the thumb stitches strung on a waste yarn just waiting. But this time I strung the 2 stitches either side of the stitches on hold as well - maybe it will stop those on the waste yarn pulling a little hole in my work? Of course with the twining - its so dense it probably won't form a hole anyway. Notice this knitting stands on its own!


Monday, May 05, 2008

My head is full of wool

Cotton wool, the kind that comes with a head cold, and snuffles, and husky voice. Now you would think a head full of wool would be ideal for a knitter and newbie spinner - but no, it isn't. and here it is winter, complete with hail, and snow, and ice and sleet. That all began Friday, and we were lucky to get out of Dunedin, two of the knitting campers didn't make it, they left late on Friday and were advised not to travel on the northern motorway due to ice-y conditions. But we left earlier in the day, and so Friday I went to knitting camp, with my box of tissues and knitting basket not knowing this was a real cold not just a case of the sniffles. Once I knew I tried my best not to contaminate any one. Don't worry, I was careful and didn't handle any body's food (I cleared plates into the dishwasher after they ate, I'm working on the principle the hot water and harsh chemical detergent kills all in its path), and I wasn't coughing at camp, that started after I returned home. And best of all, apparently I didn't snore (a great relief when room sharing - I don't think I snore, but with the cold and all - it is always a worry). Spouses can't always be relied on to answer that one truthfully.

So by end of day one, I had this little pile to show. First up was the orange and green swatch, 2mm needles - and I don't know how many stitches, but cast on number 1. White swatch, again 2mm needles and cast on number 2, a really cute little chain on the right side of the work. The larger grey swatch was my gauge swatch, as I worked out how many stitches for a mitten. I cast on 60, nope not gonna fit. This twining is not difficult, but is tricky and not as easy as ordinary knitting, so I wasn't intending to knit mittens that didn't fit and end up as gifts for someone who didn't recognise the amount of effort a twined mitten or two take. I switched ot 2.25mm needles, nope still not big enough, so I increased to 72 stitches and twined some more. About right - the Goldilocks principle, not to big, not to small. Some of these even measure 2.5 inches across!

Start of day two I cast on my mitten, and work the twined chain bands and the colour work section, latter that night at home I finished the colour work and today between coughing fits worked a little more on my mitten. This twining is slow knitting. It is knit with two yarns, usually the two ends from a center pull ball, and every stitch the yarn is twisted. The result is a smooth, elastic, firm, and quite squoooshy knit fabric that is very very dense. We discussed the reasons for twining, one book says it is more elastic than pure stranding, we also thought it was more cushion-y and would wear better. Any holes wouldn't ravel, with the yarns held firm with all the twining. We also discussed how in some European cultures brides had to knit many gloves and mittens as gifts for their in-laws. What an excuse not to say yes to a man you didn't like, "I can't marry you, I've not finished knitting my mittens yet" so much more polite than "I just don't fancy you", twining is time consuming - perhaps it was invented to delay the prospects of marriage?

And this is the inner side of my mitten, showing the twining. The reverse of the knitting really does look different. I started off twining the colour-work, but soon reverted to plain old stranding.

So I'm off to knit some more, maybe, and rest a little and have an early night. You take care.

Added after posting so a post script : my twining videos are here, here, and here, and I've worked out a smoother hold for the yarns so I'll do an update as soon as my camera bear allows, and a photo tutorial or two here.